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Eel with it

As Outkast famously sang: I’m sorry Miss Jackson. Ooooooo. I love smoked eel.

Not one to argue with Outkast, this week we’re doing pan-fried gnocchi, smoked eel, agretti and anchovy. Ewww - you think. Yum - I say.

Smoked eel is actually delicious. Forget slippery fishy snakes that want to attack you in a lake. Think delicate, smokey, and flavoury firm meat. Not convinced? Give me 5 mins and I'll tell you why smoked eel is set to be the new Fred Again…

This week’s album: 
NO THANK YOU by Little Simz

New-ish music this week with the latest album from Little Simz. She’s up there as one of my fave artists and this album doesn’t disappoint. It's packed with great thought-provoking lyrics that have a lot to say about the music industry.

Supporting the underdogs

This week is all about underdog ingredients: eel, anchovy and agretti. Under-appreciated and massively under-rated.

Although not so common nowadays, eels have traditionally featured in both Italian and English cuisine. When you think of them you either think of a) the East London delicacy of jellied eels or b) Colin Firth in Love Actually jumping into the lake and then trying to avoid the slippery suckers.

Good news: smoked eel is very different to both of those two thoughts. 

Smoked eel looks a little like smoked mackerel (when packed up) but tastes a little like crayfish (with an added smokiness to it). You can find it in most good fishmongers and don’t need to cook it.

In this week’s dish the smoked eel will work alongside a cream-based sauce flavoured with anchovy, white wine and shallots. Again, if you think you don’t like anchovies then this sauce is here to convince you otherwise. The wine, cream and shallots will mellow out any intense anchovy flavour you might expect.

And so to our third and final unloved ingredient: agretti - also known as ‘barba di frate’ (literally ‘monk’s beard’), roscano or saltwort. This sea vegetable grows on the shores of the Mediterranean and has a wonderful flavour and texture. 

It’s not particularly well-known in England but can be found online and in decent greengrocers and fishmongers. It’s really worth hunting out, but if you can’t find it you could substitute in samphire or greens.

Re the gnocchi, you can always make it yourself using one of our previous recipes, or just try to find good-quality fresh stuff.

What you need

The below serves 4. It takes 15 mins to prep and 30 mins to cook.

400g gnocchi
1 bunch agretti
(roots trimmed and washed)
200g smoked eel (cut into 2cm pieces)
4 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsps butter
1 shallot
(finely sliced)
50g anchovies (best quality)
120ml white wine
400ml double cream
½ lemon
(juice only)
Sea salt & black pepper

Ready, steady, cook

1. We’ll start with the sauce. Put a saucepan on a medium-low heat and add 2 tbsps of olive oil. Add in the sliced shallot along with a small pinch of salt. Sauté for 8-10 mins or until soft and translucent. When necessary, turn down the heat so they don’t colour.

2. When the shallot is cooked, add in the anchovies and a few twists of black pepper. Turn up the heat slightly and after a minute, or once the anchovies have broken down, add in the white wine. Allow to cook for a couple of mins so that the alcohol is burnt off. Once the wine has cooked out, add in the cream and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and leave to simmer for 10 mins.

Now take off the heat, cover the pan with cling film, and allow to rest for 10 mins. After that, blend the sauce and pass it through a fine sieve into a small pan. Check the sauce for seasoning. The anchovies should provide most of the salt you need, but add a few drops of lemon juice. Set aside for later.

3. While you do step two, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, cook the gnocchi for a minute or so (or until they rise to the surface). Remove using a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate or tray with some kitchen paper. Keep the water boiling.

4. Place a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and, when hot, add the remaining olive oil and butter. Once foaming, add in the cooked gnocchi and sauté for a couple of mins (or until nicely browned). Once browned, turn off the heat.

5. Add the agretti to the boiling water. Cook for 30 secs and remove with a slotted spoon. Drain them a little and then add to the pan with the gnocchi. Add the remaining lemon juice and toss everything together.

6. Warm your sauce up and divide between warmed plates. Distribute the gnocchi and agretti between the plates and then top with the smoked eel. Finish with a drizzle of your best-quality extra-virgin olive oil and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper.

Final thought

Want to sound different/cool/interesting/creative at your next work drinks? Tell people you just cooked smoked eel thanks to the thought-provoking and wildly popular media company Eat My Words.

Speak next week.



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Eat My Words · Kew Gardens · Kew, TW9 · United Kingdom

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